THE SAMSON OPTION: ISRAEL'S NUCLEAR ARSENAL AND AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY
Chapter 10: The Samson Option
Levi Eshkol's goal was to find a middle ground between the White House, with its insistence on international inspections, and the pro-nuclear faction of the Mapai Party, led by David Ben-Gurion, who, from retirement, turned his insistence on an Israeli nuclear arsenal into a political Last Hurrah.
The prime minister's dilemma was not whether to go nuclear, but when and at what cost, in terms of the competing need to equip and train the conventional units of the army, navy, and air force.
The debate over the nuclear option had surfaced in the nation's newspapers, in deliberately innocuous language, long before Eshkol took office. In mid-1962, for example, Shimon Peres and former army chief of staff Moshe Dayan, then Ben-Gurion's minister of agriculture, took advantage of the funeral of a prominent Zionist military leader to warn their peers that Israel's existence was linked to the "technological achievements of the 1970s" and investment in "equipment of the future." In April 1963, Dayan wrote an article for Maariv, the afternoon newspaper, urging the Israeli arms industry to keep pace with Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser's effort to build nuclear weapons. "In the era of rockets with conventional and unconventional warheads," Dayan wrote, "we must diligently develop those weapons so that we don't lag."
Ben-Gurion was even more explicit in an interview with columnist C. L. Sulzberger of the New York Times five months after leaving office. Sulzberger quoted Ben-Gurion's concern about a rocket-armed Egypt and added: "As a result he [Ben-Gurion] hints grimly that in its nearby Dimona reactor Israel itself may be experimenting with military atomics." Nuclear energy cannot be ruled out, the ex-prime minister was quoted as saying, "because Nasser won't give up. Nor will he risk war again until he's sure he can win. That means atomic weapons-and he has a large desert in which to test. We can't test here." Sulzberger's column was published on Saturday, November 16, 1963. It got to Ben-Gurion in a hurry, for on that same day he wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Times denying that he in any way had suggested or hinted of nuclear weapons during the interview with Sulzberger.
The Eshkol government, under pressure first from President Kennedy and then from Johnson, worked at keeping the lid on, and had no qualms about stretching the truth to do so. In December 1963, Shimon Yiftach, director of scientific programs for the defense ministry, publicly told a group of Israeli science writers that, as they had assumed, the advanced reactor at Dimona would produce plutonium as a by-product. However, Yiftach insisted that the Israeli government had no plans to build a separate plant for chemically reprocessing plutonium. Yiftach, who had been trained at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, was then one of Israel's leading experts in the chemistry of plutonium and knew that French construction companies had started up once again on the underground reprocessing plant at Dimona.
Eshkol's apprehension about committing Israel to the mass production of nuclear weapons did not impede the steady progress at Dimona. By mid-1964, the reactor had been in operation for almost two years and the reprocessing plant, with its remote-controlled laboratories and computer-driven machinery, was essentially completed and ready to begin producing weapons-grade plutonium from the reactor's spent uranium fuel rods. Israel's nuclear facilities eventually would include a weapons assembly plant in Haifa, to the north, and a well-fortified nuclear storage igloo at the Tel Nof fighter base near Rehovot. Extreme security is a way of life inside the nuclear complex, and especially at Dimona, which is under the constant watch of Israeli troops, electronic detection systems, and radar screens linked to a missile battery. All aircraft, including those belonging to the Israeli Air Force, are forbidden to overfly the facility-and do so at perilous risk. 
Well-placed Israeli sources say that the physicists and technicians at Dimona conducted at least one successful low-yield nuclear test sometime in the mid-1960s at an underground cavern near the Israeli-Egyptian border in the Negev desert. Such detonations, known in the weapons community as "zero yield," produce a fission yield that is low, but discernible, and are considered to be a perfectly reliable measurement of the overall weapons assembly system.  The test was said to have shaken parts of the Sinai.
In early 1965, completion of the underground reprocessing plant removed the last barrier to Israel's nuclear ambitions; it also heightened the ongoing debate inside the government over the issue. Completion of the reprocessing plant also made it even more essential that Floyd Culler's annual visits to Dimona continue to produce nothing, and the Israeli cover-up was constantly being improved and embellished by Binyamin Blumberg and his colleagues in the Office of Special Tasks. (International inspections by the IAEA were, of course, considered and rejected in the Kennedy years.) In the mid- 960s, Dimona's managers came up with a new method of hiding its underground world. Members of the Israeli Defense Force's 269th General Staff Reconnaissance Unit, the most elite undercover group in the nation, were ordered to the nuclear facility a few weeks before the arrival of a Culler inspection and told to bring with them, one former 269th member recalled, "eight semitrailers loaded with grass. It was sod -- all for camouflage," he added. "Our job for ten days is to cover the walks and bunkers with dirt, sod, and bushes. When the delegation comes, I'm standing watering grass that looks like it's been there for years." The scene remains vivid in his memory, the former officer said, because he'd never before seen sod. 
There is no evidence that the American intelligence community, and President Johnson, had any idea how close Israel was to joining the nuclear club; the available documents show that the President's men somehow managed to convince themselves that by continuing to focus on IAEA inspection as the solution, all of the nagging questions about Dimona and Israeli nuclear proliferation would go away.  Eshkol was invited for a state visit in June t964-the first visit to Washington by an Israeli prime minister-and declassified presidential documents on file at the LBJ Library at the University of Texas show that the White House believed that Eshkol could be induced by the promise of American arms to open up Dimona to the International Atomic Energy Agency. The President's men were, in essence, operating in self- inflicted darkness when it came to Dimona: they were convinced that Israel had the technical skill to build a bomb and install it on a warhead, but no one seemed to know whether Israel seriously intended to do so or not. It was as if the White House believed there really were two atoms, one of which was peaceful.
McGeorge Bundy, the national security adviser, who had been involved with the Israeli weapons question since early 1961, professed to Johnson not to have any intelligence about Israel's nuclear intentions, according to the White House documents, in a memorandum summarizing the potential threat to Israel posed ,by Egypt's missile systems. Both nations could make missiles, Bundy told the President on May 18, two weeks before the Eshkol visit, but "the difference was that the Israelis could make nuclear warheads to put on their missiles, while the UAR [United Arab Republic] couldn't. The real issue was whether Israel was going for a nuclear capability." It's inconceivable that Bundy and his colleagues did not know what Israel was doing with a secret nuclear reactor in the Negev.
Eshkol wanted to buy American M-48 tanks, and was delighted when Johnson agreed before their summit meeting to use the prestige of his office to persuade West Germany to sell Israel the M-48 out of its NATO stockpiles. Such a purchase, even if circuitous, would be a first for offensive weapons, and would open the American arms pipeline. The Johnson men had a fallback in case Eshkol did not agree to international inspections, as many must have expected he would not: they wanted Israel's permission to brief Arab nations on the results of the annual Floyd Culler inspections.
Eshkol's mission in coming to America was to get what he could-in the way of U.S. arms and commitments-without making any real concessions on Dimona, which, of course, he could not. He had told the White House prior to his arrival that he would continue to accept the Culler inspections of Dimona, but he wanted nothing to do with the International Atomic Energy Agency. Israel offered the public argument, as did other putatively nonnuclear nations, that it should not be forced to place its national laboratories under IAEA aegis until all of the world's nuclear powers did so. China and France were not parties to the agreement. There was a second issue, equally contrived: the contention that the IAEA, like the United Nations, had systematically discriminated against Israel in favor of the Arab nations. There were perhaps some inside Israel who profoundly believed that such discrimination existed, but it had nothing to do with the reason the IAEA was not welcome. Eshkol also drew the line at any briefing of the Arabs.
The White House staff had to anticipate hard bargaining on the Arab and IAEA issues; Eshkol's delegation included Peres, who was violently opposed to international inspection and to the sharing of anything about Dimona with the Arab world. Nonetheless, NSC aide Robert Komer, in his pre-summit memorandum to Johnson, suggested that the President try to change Eshkol's mind on both issues. "We hope you'll personally tell Eshkol they should bite the bullet now," he said of the IAEA inspections. "Without in any way implying that Israel is going nuclear, one has to admit that a functioning ... reactor plus an oncoming missile delivery system add up to an inescapable conclusion that Israel is at least putting itself in a position to go nuclear. This could have the gravest repercussions on U.S.-Israeli relations, and the earlier we try to halt it the better chance we have. This is why your raising a to-do ... even if unsuccessful, will at least put Israel firmly on notice that we may be back at it again."
Turning to the relaying of information about Dimona to the Arabs, Komer wrote, "We're firmly convinced that Israel's apparent desire to keep the Arabs guessing is highly dangerous. To appear to be going nuclear without really doing so is to invite trouble. It might spark Nasser into a foolish preemptive move."
Komer, who served for years with the CIA before joining Bundy's National Security Council staff, had few illusions at the time about what was going on underground at Dimona. He vividly recalled discussing the Israeli nuclear bomb project with John McCone, his boss: "We knew the program was continuing. They never told us they would stop."
His recommendations to the President, as he had to know, had no chance of being accepted by the Israelis, nor could they even serve as a negotiating device. Raising a "to-do" to put Israel "firmly on notice" was not going to stop the bomb.
A declassified summary of the June 1 Johnson-Eshkol conversation shows that Johnson indeed did follow his staff's advice to the letter, as if he, too, believed that Washington could negotiate Israel out of its nuclear arsenal. Johnson was emphatic in telling Eshkol that international inspection of Dimona would calm the Arabs and slow the Middle East missile race. "The President pointed out that the Arabs will inevitably tie Israeli missiles to Israel's nuclear potential," the official memorandum of conversation said. "This is why we see IAEA control as in Israel's interest. We should like to remind the Prime Minister that we are' violently against nuclear proliferation."
The President also reminded Eshkol that the Soviet Union was becoming more of a factor in the Middle East, and an Israeli reassurance on Dimona could go a long way toward keeping the Russians out. Komer summarized the issue for the President on the day after the Eshkol meeting: "Peres said yesterday Israel wasn't worried so much about present UAR missiles but about better stuff Soviets might give Nasser. This is our whole point too--if Nasser thinks Israel is getting better missiles than he has, and is not reassured on Dimona, he'll be forced to pay Soviet price to get missiles. Therefore, you urge Eshkol to agree both to Dimona reassurances, and to IAEA controls. These two acts would help diminish Nasser's incentive to get exotic weapons help from the USSR. Eshkol's argument, 'Why reassure an enemy?' is short- sighted."
Komer added, "All in all, we understand why Israel, being under the gun, is more fearful of its future than Washington. But Israel can count on us. All we ask in return is that Israel recognize our Arab interests and our common aim of keeping the Soviets out of the Middle East."
Israel, of course, was willing to play along in any way to get more American arms. But it would never "count" on America to protect its future. Komer's comment referred to the main message of the June I summit meeting, one that echoed the assurances that John Kennedy had privately given Golda Meir two years earlier: the United States would become Israel's supplier of arms as long as Israel did not produce nuclear weapons. It was this proposal, not found in any of the declassified documents in the Johnson Library, that drove the June I summit meeting. The White House's offer soon became known to David Ben-Gurion and Ernst David Bergmann, who viewed any such commitment by the Eshkol government, according to a former Israeli official, "as compromising the security of Israel."
Johnson's pleas about IAEA inspection and the sharing of information with the Arabs went nowhere, but his promise of continued arms support became a factor in what emerged by the fall of 1964 as a major strategic issue for the State of Israel: when to begin the mass production of a nuclear arsenal. Eshkol obviously was far from a pacifist; he had, for example, no ambivalence about continuing Israel's ongoing chemical and biological weapons programs. "Maybe he looks now to you as a moderate, but he was-like all our leaders then-a pragmatic son of a bitch," a former aide recalled with pride. "This was a man who grew up in a generation that saw the Holocaust, the Communists in Russia, the Arabs-all wanting to destroy Jews."
Eshkol's only doubts about Dimona were practical ones: Dimona was costing upward of $500 million a year, more than 10 percent of the Israeli military budget. It was money not being spent elsewhere, the former aide added: "Eshkol would say, 'I don't have the money for it. How many children will go without shoes? How many students will not go to university? And there's no threat. None of our neighbors are going nuclear. Why should we go nuclear?'"
Eshkol's questions led to a series of high-level and highly secret conferences on the bomb in late 1964 and early 1965 at the Midrasha, a Mossad retreat outside Tel Aviv. The meetings were attended by senior officials of the leading Israeli political parties, as well as many defense experts. "The issue was not whether to go nuclear or not," one participant recalled. "But when."
Dimona's supporters had convinced most of the leadership that only nuclear weapons could provide the absolute and final deterrent to the Arab threat, and only nuclear weapons could convince the Arabs -- who were bolstered by rapidly growing Soviet economic and military aid -- that they must renounce all plans for military conquest of Israel and agree to a peace settlement. With a nuclear arsenal there would be no more Masadas in Israel's history, a reference to the decision of more than nine hundred Jewish defenders -- known as the Zealots -- to commit suicide in A.D. 73 rather than endure defeat at the hands of the Romans.
In its place, argued the nuclear advocates, would be the Samson Option. Samson, according to the Bible, had been captured by the Philistines after a bloody fight and put on display, with his eyes torn out, for public entertainment in Dagon's Temple in Gaza. He asked God to give him back his strength for the last time and cried out, "Let my soul die with the Philistines." With that, he pushed apart the temple pillars, bringing down the roof and killing himself and his enemies. For Israel's nuclear advocates, the Samson Option became another way of saying "Never again." 
The basic argument against the nuclear arsenal went beyond its impact on the readiness of the military: these were years of huge economic growth and business expansion inside Israel, and Dimona still was absorbing far too much skilled manpower, in the view of many industrial managers-whose constant complaints to government officials on that issue went nowhere. Dimona continued to distort the economy and limit development. There was, for example, no private computer industry in Israel by the late 1960s, although American intelligence officials had rated Israel for years as an international leader-with Japan and the United States-in the ability to design and program computer software.
The long-range social and military costs of Dimona were most certainly the concerns of Yitzhak Rabin, the new army chief of staff, and Yigal Allon, a close Eshkol adviser and former commander of the irregular Palmach forces before the 1948 War of Independence. Less compelling to the military men was the moral argument against the bomb raised by some on the left and in academia: that the Jewish people, victims of the Holocaust, had an obligation to prevent the degeneration of the Arab-Israeli dispute into a war of mass destruction. Those who held that view did not underestimate the danger of a conventional arms race, but believed that, as Simha Flapan, their passionate spokesman, wrote, "the qualitative advantages of Israel-social cohesion and organization, education and technical skills, intelligence and moral incentive--can be brought into play only in a conventional war fought by men."
A major complication in the debate, seemingly, was the Arab and Israeli press, which routinely published exaggerated accounts of each side's weapons of mass destruction. In Israel, there were alarmist accounts of Soviet and Chinese support for an Egyptian nuclear bomb. Egypt, in turn, publicly suggested that it had received a Soviet commitment to come to its aid in case of an Israeli nuclear attack, and President Gamal Nasser warned in an interview that "preventive war" was the "only answer" to a nuclear-armed Israel. It was a period, Simha Flapan later wrote, when both Israel and Egypt "were trapped in a vicious circle of tension and suspicion and were doing everything possible to make them a self- fulfilling prophecy."
The officials at the top in Israel understood the difference between public perceptions and private realities. Before the Midrasha conference, for example, Binyamin Blumberg prepared an analysis estimating that the Arab world would not be able to develop sophisticated nuclear weapons for twenty-five years-until 1990. The paper was important to Eshkol, who, as he told the conference, was considering three postures: a ready-to-go bomb in the basement; the nuclear option, with the weapons parts manufactured but not assembled; and further research. "He said," an Israeli recalled, "'We're not in a hurry. It'll take the Arabs twenty-five years.'" Eshkol's choice was to merely continue research and use that added time to "jump a stage"-to bypass the crude plutonium weapon detonated by the United States at Nagasaki and go directly to more efficient warhead designs. There was a second compelling argument, along with the issue of money, for temporarily limiting the work at Dimona to research: Israel as yet had no long-range aircraft or missiles in place that were capable of accurately delivering a bomb to targets inside the Soviet Union, which was always Israel's primary nuclear target; no Arab nation would dare wage war against Israel, so the Israeli leadership thought, without Soviet backing.
Levi Eshkol parlayed the Midrasha decision into a strategic asset: he told Washington that he would defer a decision on the nuclear arsenal in return for a commitment to supply offensive arms that would match the quality of arms being supplied to Egypt by the Soviet Union. It was more than good enough for Johnson, who was losing interest with each passing year in waging political war with Israel over the bomb. The President rewarded Eshkol's pledge of a delay by authorizing the sale to Israel in 1966 of forty-eight advanced A-4E Skyhawk tactical fighters, capable of carrying a payload of eight thousand pounds. Johnson's refusal to ask more of the Israelis on the nuclear issue was eased by the strong evidence of renewed Soviet economic and military commitments in the Middle East: Moscow was moving to encourage Arab socialism and unity. For Johnson, this meant that the Cold War was moving to the Arab world, with Israel serving as a surrogate for America.
Eshkol's decision to put a hold on the nuclear issue enraged Ben-Gurion, still smarting over the Mapai Party's handling of the Lavon Affair; Ben-Gurion eventually would publicly compare Eshkol to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who attempted to appease Adolf Hitler before World War II. In June 1965, Ben-Gurion, talking darkly of Eshkol's "endangering the nation's security," dramatically resigned from the Mapai Party and created a new party, known as Rafi (an acronym for the Israel Workers' List). He was joined by a reluctant but loyal Peres, who became Rafi's power broker, and the restless Dayan, who had recently resigned as agricultural minister. Ben-Gurion's hope was that Rafi could capture as many as twenty-five seats in the 120-member Knesset and emerge as a major power broker in Israeli politics.
Ben-Gurion and his followers changed forever the political structure of Israel. Rafi would now become an opposition party, and play the role that had traditionally belonged to right-wing groups. Ben-Gurion's immediate reason for splitting with the Mapai leadership was his continued anger over Lavon, but the Rafi Party, under Peres's leadership, stood for a more aggressive position across the spectrum of defense issues, and especially on nuclear weapons. Ernst Bergmann was another founding member of Rafi, and once again had Ben-Gurion's ear: "Ben-Gurion was quoting Bergmann all the time," recalled an Israeli, about the dangers of not initiating the production of a nuclear arsenal. The issue emerged as a dominant one in the 1965 elections, although it was played out in code language. Israeli newspapers were full of criticism from Peres and Ben-Gurion over what was referred to in Hebrew as ha 'anoseh ha'adin, "the sensitive topic," or b'chia ledorot, "a lament for generations"; the Rafi leaders also constantly criticized what they euphemistically called Eshkol's "big mistake," language understood by many inside Israel as referring to Eshkol's hesitations about opening a nuclear weapons assembly line at Dimona. None of this was reported by American or other newspapers: the foreign correspondents in Israel apparently did not understand what really was at stake.  Neither did the American intelligence community.
It was an ugly election, with insults and accusations from all parties. One prominent lawyer with close ties to Golda Meir referred publicly to Ben-Gurion as a "coward" and Rafi as a "neo-Fascist group." Many Israelis understood, in a way that no outsider could, that the debate was not only about defense policy or the bomb, but about Ben-Gurion's profound belief that Israel could survive only by relying on the state-and not on the traditional volunteerism of the Zionist movement. In Ben-Gurion's view, the kibbutzim, the Mapai Party, the Hagannah of the 1948 war-all populated by volunteers who believed in the cause-had to give way to the more impersonal institutions of universal military service, universal public education, and promotion on the basis of competence and merit rather than party affiliation. Many aspects of this debate coalesced- at least for his critics-in Ben-Gurion's unwavering support of the nuclear arsenal. Some of his opponents in the 1965 election viewed Dimona as nothing more than a collection of competent scientists and bureaucrats, with unclear ideological affiliations, who had created a powerful weapon away from public scrutiny and approval. For many, the election was perhaps a last-ditch struggle between an Israel that continued to utilize the willing spirit of dedicated volunteers and an Israel that relied on the use of science, objective knowledge, and the state.
Ben-Gurion and his Rafi Party were sorely disappointed by the election, winning only ten seats in the Knesset, not enough to provide Ben-Gurion with a power base. The election amounted to a brutal referendum on his dream of returning to power, and the end of his role in the public policy of Israel. 
The election also was interpreted by Levi Eshkol as a referendum on his handling of the nuclear issue; Dimona would remain a standby operation. The country seemingly had rejected the efficient "can do" approach of Ben-Gurion, Dayan, and Peres in favor of the social-democratic and volunteerist goals of the Meir-Eshkol wing of Mapai. It was a low point for Ben-Gurion and his followers.
By the spring of 1966, Ernst David Bergmann had had enough: he resigned under pressure as director of the commissionerless Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, as well as from his two high-level defense science posts. Many in the Eshkol cabinet viewed his departure as long overdue, and it showed; Bergmann was angered and hurt when a ministry of defense official came to his apartment within an hour of his resignation to retrieve his government car. Eshkol moved quickly to make the Bergmann portfolio less independent: bureaucratic responsibility for the AEC was shifted from the defense ministry to the prime minister's personal staff, and Eshkol himself became chairman of an expanded and revitalized commission. Decisions about the future of nuclear weapons in Israel would now be made by the highest political authority. A pouting Bergmann retreated, with the aid of Lewis Strauss, to the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton University, but not before granting an interview to Maariv, the popular Israeli newspaper. The New York Times account of that interview provides a classic example of the public doubletalk and doublethink that then surrounded the nuclear issue in Israel and the American press: "The scientist [Bergmann] suggested that the Eshkol Government was less sympathetic to long-term scientific planning than former Premier David Ben-Gurion, with whom Professor Bergmann was closely associated. He spoke of the lack of funds for research and the risk of dependence on foreign sources."
Nonetheless, the nuclear weapons issue, even if depicted as "long-term scientific planning," had moved into the open inside Israel. In the United States, where all foreign policy was rapidly becoming consumed by the Vietnam War, Israel's nuclear option continued to be an issue solely for government insiders, who weren't talking.
1. During the 1967 Six-Day War, an Israeli Mirage III was shot down when its pilot, either confused or dealing with equipment problems, ventured into Dimona's airspace. In February I973, a Libyan airliner flew off course over the Sinai because of a navigational error and also, after ignoring or failing to see signals to land, was destroyed by fighter planes of the Israeli Air Force, killing 108 of the 113 people aboard. Israel claimed, without evidence, that the plane was headed for Dimona.
2. Theodore B. Taylor, a physicist who designed weapons for the American nuclear program, has written that such low- yield events are, in fact, ''more stringent" than full-yield tests because any failings or imperfections in the weapons design show up more readily at very low yield than at high yield. Taylor, in a 1988 paper presented to an arms control seminar in London, noted that low-yield tests are reliable enough to be useful to countries with considerable weapons testing experience. "But," he added, "they can also be useful to countries starting nuclear weapons development, if they want to test without detection."
3. The CIA's photo interpreters, recalled Dino Brugioni, were far from fooled by the sudden appearance of seemingly new grass. "It was a foolish move on their [the Israelis] part and confirmed what we knew," he said. "You could see what they were doing in the aerial photos. They planted sod, trees, and bushes. Nothing grows in Beersheba like that. I mean, why in hell would you plant that stuff' there and not around their homes? It just spotlights activity."
4. Washington may have gotten the wrong signal when the Eshkol government, after extended negotiations, finally went forward in April 1965 with an American request to shift responsibility for inspection of the Nahal Soreq reactor to the IAEA. American teams had conducted the inspection two times a year until then, without incident, under the original 1955 agreement that had set up the small research reactor -- which, unlike Dimona, was constantly being used for medical and scientific research by the staff of the Weizmann Institute. The American request was consistent with the Johnson administration's policy of strengthening IAEA safeguards by insisting that all countries participating in the Atoms for Peace program submit to international, and ot American, inspection. Another factor in the switch to international safeguards, a former nonproliferation official explained, was the widespread belief that the bilateral American inspections were weak. In return for the Israeli acquiescence, the United States agreed to provide forty more kilograms of enriched uranium, under safeguards, for Nahal Soreq's research program.
5. In a 1976 essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz accurately summarized the pronuclear argument in describing what Israel would do if abandoned by the United States and overrun by Arabs: "The Israelis would fight ... with conventional weapons for as long as they could, and if the tide were turning decisively against them, and if help in the form of resupply from the United States or any other guarantors were not forthcoming, it is safe to predict that they would fight with nuclear weapons in the end. ... It used to be said that the Israelis had a Masada complex ... but if the Israelis are to be understood in terms of a 'complex' involving suicide rather than surrender and rooted in a relevant precedent of Jewish history, the example of Samson, whose suicide brought about the destruction of his enemies, would be more appropriate than Masada, where in committing suicide the Zealots killed only themselves and took no Romans with them." Podhoretz, asked years later about his essay, said that his conclusions about the Samson Option were just that-his conclusions, and not based on any specific information from Israelis or anyone else about Israel's nuclear capability.
6. John Finney of the New York Times did a little better with the Floyd Culler inspections. Finney, who remained on the nuclear beat for the Times, reported on June 28, 1966. that the American team had arrived at "the same tentative conclusion as a year ago, that the reactor is not being used at this time for producing plutonium for weapons." The reporter wisely cautioned, however, that the team's conclusion "was tentative because it is difficult to establish in once-a- ear inspections that none of the reactor fuel rods have been removed for extracting the plutonium...."
7. Ben-Gurion was an inveterate diarist and spent many hours in his later years -- he died in early 1974 -- assembling his papers and helping his biographer, Michael Bar-Zohar. Myer Feldman recalls being accompanied on one of his last scheduled meetings with Ben-Gurion by Teddy Kollek, the mayor of Jerusalem and longtime associate of the Old Man. The two men stood waiting as Ben-Gurion scribbled away in his notebook. "I said to Kollek, 'What's he doing?'" Feldman recalled. Kollek replied, with a smile, "Oh, he's falsifying history."